Have you walked timidly into an ice-cold pool one too many times? Are you finally ready to invest in your happiness and find a top-notch solar pool heater? If your answer to these questions is an emphatic “YES!” you’ve found your way to the right page.
With an undeniable love of the environment and a lifelong passion for swimming pools, we’ve seen every solar pool heater under the sun and have put the very best to the test to help you find the best solar pool heater for your backyard oasis.
Our comprehensive solar pool heater reviews and invaluable tips will have you relaxing in an 80-degree pool in time at all. Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
- 1 Our Recommended Solar Pool Heaters
- 2 10 Best Solar Pool Heater for the Money:
- 2.1 1. Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System for In Ground Pool
- 2.2 2. BEAR Fafco Solar Economy Heating System for Above-Ground Pools with LiquidHeat Solar Blanket
- 2.3 3. HELIOCOL Swimming Pool Solar Heating Panel
- 2.4 4. GAME 4721-BB SolarPRO Curve Solar Pool Heater, Made for Intex & Bestway Above-Ground and Inground Pools, Includes Intex Adapters, 2 Hoses & Clamps
- 2.5 5. GAME 4714 SolarPRO Contour Solar Pool Heater for Intex
- 2.6 6. SunHeater 2′ X 10′ Solar Heating Universal System
- 2.7 7. XtremepowerUS Inground/Above Ground Swimming Pool Solar Panel Heating System 28″ X 20′
- 2.8 8. Doheny’s 5′ x 10′ (Two 2.5 x 10 Panels) Space Saver Solar Heating Collector
- 2.9 9. SunHeater Solar Pool Heating System, Two 2’ x 20’ Panels – Solar Swimming Pool Heater For Inground and Aboveground Pools, Made of Durable Polypropylene, Raises Temperature 6-10°F, S240U
- 2.10 10. Intex 28685E Above Ground Swimming Pool Water Heater Solar Mat, Black (2 Pack)
- 3 How to Choose a Solar Pool Heater
- 4 How Solar Pool Heating Systems Work
- 5 How to Install a Solar Pool Heater
- 6 Solar Pool Heater VS Solar Pool Cover VS Floating Solar Pool Heater VS Solar Sun Ring
- 7 Solar Pool Heater FAQ
- 8 Making the Decision
Our Recommended Solar Pool Heaters
- Our Rating:
- Features 80 square feet of solar panels
Panel array measures 4 feet wide x 20 feet long.
Raises Pool Water Temperature 6-10°F (4-6°C)
- Our Rating:
- Heats 18' to 24' above ground pools
4-foot x 20-foot panel array
Producing 80 000 BTU's per day
10 Best Solar Pool Heater for the Money:
How to Choose a Solar Pool Heater
Solar pool heating systems cost less and generally last longer than gas pool heaters and heat pumps. However, you can’t just go out and purchase any old solar panel, cross your fingers, and pray for good luck. To make sure you choose the best solar pool heater for your pool, you must first:
- Evaluate the sunlight of your location
- Research local codes and regulations
- Determine the size and efficiency of the system you need
- Figure out where to place it and the angle of the collector
- Compare the costs of various systems
Rather than reading a few above ground and inground pool solar heater reviews and picking out the first one that catches your eye, the very first thing you should do is consider the amount of sunlight your home receives. The design and efficiency of a solar pool heater are entirely dependent on how much solar energy it’s able to collect.
Most quality solar pool heaters are able to collect both direct and diffuse solar energy. Therefore, you don’t necessarily have to live in someplace with a constantly sunny climate like Arizona or Southern California in order to benefit from a solar heating system. As long as your backyard has some unshaded areas, it’s likely suitable for a solar pool heater.
Now that you have that squared away, it’s time to determine the size of the system, which involves the following factors:
- Pool size
- Amount of available solar energy
- Desired pool temperature
- Average regional temperature
- System efficiency
- Whether or not you plan on using a solar cover
When determining sizing and system requirements for a conventional solar panel pool heating system, you basically want the surface area of whichever model you choose to equal at least 50 percent of your pool’s surface area.
If you live in a cloudy or cooler locale, the surface area may need to be even greater. In most cases the greater the surface area of the panels, the warmer your pool will be.
In northern climates, people only use their pools six or so months out of the year, allowing the summer sun to do most of the work. Meanwhile, pools in Florida and other sunny and warm climates often require larger or additional panels for year-round use. That being said, the required size of a panel can be instantly reduced by using a solar pool cover, regardless of where you live.
In addition to the size of your pool, you also need to consider the size of the pool pump when choosing a solar pool heater. If you’re getting rid of a gas pool heater and switching to a solar pool heater as many pool owners often do, you may need a larger pump or an additional one for optimal water circulation.
On a final note, the cost and installation of a solar pool heater are two obvious factors to also consider. As you can see from the solar pool heater reviews above, there are plenty of high-quality solar pool heating systems available for much less than you would imagine. However, while some are easy to install and can be set up and running in under an hour, others require a little more patience and know-how.
Nonetheless, there are some excellent options out there for every pool and pool owner. All you have to do is consider these factors and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a heated backyard oasis in no time at all.
How Solar Pool Heating Systems Work
Most solar pool heaters utilize a solar collector, filter, pump, and flow control valve. Pool water is simply pumped through a filter and makes its way to the tubes of a solar collector, where it’s warmed before being returned to the pool. If you live in a hotter climate and would like to actually cool the pool for a more refreshing dip, your system’s collector can also be used to do just that by circulating water through it at night.
As far as operation goes, that’s pretty much it. However, it’s important to note some pool collectors have sensors and water diverter valves, which divert water when the temperature of the collector sufficiently exceeds the pool temperature. When this occurs and the temperature of the pool is similar to the collector temperature, water bypasses the collector and pumped back into the pool.
When discussing solar pool heating systems and how they operate, you should also know that they’re not all made of the same materials. The type of system and material you’ll need largely depends on your local climate and how you plan on using it.
If you’re like most people and only plan on using your pool when there’s no snow on the ground, an unglazed panel collector without a glass covering should be fine. Unglazed solar panel pool heaters usually feature a heavy-duty plastic or rubber construction and a UV light inhibitor treatment for extra durability.
Due to their simple and inexpensive design, unglazed panel systems, like many of the ones recommended above, are extremely popular and an obvious choice for many pool owners.
How to Install a Solar Pool Heater
Depending on the solar pool heater you pick, installing it can either be a breeze or a nightmare. It isn’t rocket science, but here’s the step-by-step rundown on how to install most solar pool heaters being made today.
The first step is picking the right sized heater. When shopping for a solar pool heater, the general rule of thumb is to select a heater with a collector panel with approximately 50 percent less surface area than your pool.
In all actuality, however, there are several factors to consider when deciding on the best collector panel size for your pool, such as:
Pool type – Above ground pools experience much more heat loss than in-ground pools. Therefore, they require solar collector panels with more surface area for even more heat absorption.
Pump running time – The longer your pool pump is able to run, the more water can pass through the collector, become heated, and returned back into the pool, thus requiring a solar collector with less surface area.
Solar potential – This is the amount of sunlight the panels receive when the pump is on. the energy consumed by the pump will offset some of the advantages of using solar-thermal power, reduce the gains you’re making, and lengthen the payback time.
Wind – Glazed solar collector panels work best in windy areas.
With the pool pump running, place the solar collector in a sunny spot in your yard. Solar pool heaters work best with direct sunlight, so this second step may be the most crucial. If you decide to place it on your roof to free up space or be less of an eyesore, it’s important to minimize water flow resistance and keep the panel out of as much wind as possible.
Cut the PVC line after the filter and connect a couple of flex hoses or PVC to run to the collector panel, which can be positioned flat on the ground or tilted toward the sun for maximum absorption.
With the solar collector panel now connected to the pool pump, the next step is installing the water diverter valve, which comes included with the most quality solar pool heaters. The included instructions should explain exactly how to perform the install for the particular model you choose.
When done, however, the valve will allow water to run exclusively through the panel when closed and constrict water from flowing through the panel when open, giving you complete control over the exact temperature of your pool.
Every solar pool heater differs from one another, but that’s generally all there is to the installation process. Most solar pool heating systems are designed to be installed and up and running in just a few hours.
Solar Pool Heater VS Solar Pool Cover VS Floating Solar Pool Heater VS Solar Sun Ring
There are basically four solar pool heating options out there to choose from. Let’s take a look at how each one compares to help you decide which solution is right for you.
Solar Pool Heaters
Like the ones mentioned in the solar pool heater reviews above, use sunlight to heat pool water to a comfortable temperature. Solar pool heaters are incredibly popular and are by far the most energy-efficient pool heating solution, saving pool owners hundreds and even thousands each year in energy costs.
These types of pool heaters are also quite durable and usually well-made, requiring zero to no maintenance once they’re up and running.
Solar Pool Covers
Every pool should have a solar pool cover. These nifty devices do a great job of absorbing solar energy and sealing heat in the water. In fact, some solar pool covers can raise the temperature of a swimming pool by up to 20 degrees in just a few short days.
In addition to being incredibly efficient, they’re usually reasonably priced and made to last for years. For these reasons, most smart pool owners use both a solar pool heater and a solar pool cover when their pool’s not in use.
Floating Solar Pool Heaters
Floating solar pool heaters are pretty cool, but they’re also pretty darn expensive. In fact, you can easily shell out a few thousand dollars for a quality model. That being said, most are well worth the investment.
With waterproof construction and the ability to float freely atop a pool and safely turn it into a comfortable spa, a floating solar pool heater is a great option for a tech-loving pool owner with some money to burn.
Solar Sun Rings
If you’re here in search of the best solar pool heater, solar sun rings probably aren’t for you. However, these portable solar heaters are growing in popularity each day and are nearly as effective as solar pool covers. Unfortunately, solar sun rings aren’t nearly as efficient and it takes quite a few to make a real difference.
They’re also not really durable, and although solar sun rings are one of the least expensive pools heating solutions, they may or not be one of the best for you and your pool.
Solar Pool Heater FAQ
How much can a solar pool heater raise the temperature of a pool?
With a quality solar pool heater, you can expect the temperature of your pool to raise by approximately 10-15 degrees. Of course, the answer to this question depends on the size and location of your pool. A solar pool cover or blanket can also be used to trap in the heat and make it even more comfortable, especially during the winter months.
Can a solar swimming pool heater be used for an in-ground pool?
Yes and no. Many solar pool heaters with traditional panel collectors are designed to work for both above ground and in-ground pools. However, while the best solar pool heater can heat both, some models simply aren’t designed to heat up large in-ground pools. That being said, many times you can connect multiple pool solar heaters for all the heat you could ask for.
Real solar pool heater performance – what is it?
The right sized solar pool heater should be capable of heating your pool to 80 degrees during the summer months and reaching 70 degrees from Thanksgiving to Easter. Its real performance can be measured against these stats.
How much does a solar pool heater cost to run?
Today’s solar pool heating systems are quite affordable and allow pool owners to enjoy comfortable warmer pools with little additional operating costs. However, the actual cost of running a solar pool heater depends on a number of factors, such as the size of your pool, the heater’s efficiency, and whether or not it’s equipped with an automatic diverter valve. Nonetheless, solar pool heaters, in general, are much cheaper to run than gas or electric pool heaters.
How do you install a solar pool heater?
The answer to this question is explained above just after the solar pool heater reviews, but it can’t hurt going over the installation process and its simplicity one more time. A solar pool heater can either be installed on the ground next to the pool and pump or on a roof out of the way.
Nearly all solar pool heaters connect to the pool’s pump and feature valves, hoses, and brackets for easy installation. Although some larger models may require a professional installer, most can be installed by anyone in under an hour.
Making the Decision
If you’re serious about finding the best solar pool heater for your pool and managed to read this entire guide, you should now feel more than confident in your ability to pick the perfect one. However, you can read solar pool heater reviews all day long and still end up with an ice-cold pool. Rather than twiddle your thumbs, go ahead and take the next step by pulling the trigger on the right solar pool heater for you and your pool.
Whether you want a cheap solar pool heater or don’t mind spending a little more for performance, there’s definitely a solar pool heater out there for you. So, consider your pool and your needs, read the reviews one more time, and treat yourself and your family to a warm and toasty pool today. Other than your pool, it may just be the best investment in your happiness you’ll ever make!